Reconciliation between the Scottish Jewish Community and the Church of Scotland was taken to a new level when Edinburgh Synagogue received a visit from their Graces, the Rt Hon the Lord Hope of Craighead, Lord High Commissioner to the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland, and Lady Hope. (The Lord High Commissioner is the Queen's personal representative to the General Assembly, where he gives the opening and closing addresses).
This was another important step to improved relations with the Church of Scotland after Chief Rabbi Ephraim Mirvis made history in 2014 when he became the first Rabbi (and only the third Jew) to address the General Assembly, and called for "a deeper appreciation for of each other's traditions, leading to greater respect and stronger bonds between our faiths". Lord Hope's visit represented a further important step in re-establishing a positive relationship with the Kirk after the breach that occurred when the General Assembly considered the controversial Inheritance of Abraham? document in 2013.
Lord and Lady Hope were escorted by their formal entourage, which included the Purse Bearer, the Minister of the Canongate Kirk and ex officio Chaplain to the Lord High Commissioner, a Lady in Waiting, and a Navy Officer serving as Aide de Camp.
Welcoming the guests, Rabbi David Rose, the minister of Edinburgh Synagogue, introduced them to community representatives including Raymond Taylor, the Chair of the Board of Management of Edinburgh Hebrew Congregation (EHC), Hilary Rifkind, who is both Treasurer of EHC and Chair of SCoJeC, Rabbi Moshe Rubin of Giffnock Synagogue, and SCoJeC Director Ephraim Borowski and Public Affairs Officer Nicola Livingston.
Lord Hope was particularly interested in the many stained glass windows in the synagogue. Rabbi Rose showed the party a siddur (daily prayer book) and took them up onto the bimah (central reading platform) to see a Sefer Torah (Scroll of the Law, containing the Hebrew Bible inscribed on parchment). The party then moved downstairs to the Beit HaMidrash (a smaller ancillary synagogue) which was expanded and reconsecrated in 2012, and which incorporates wrought iron partitions and carpeting from the former Netherlee and Clarkston Synagogue in Glasgow, which had closed earlier that year. Following the synagogue tour, Raymond Taylor made a short speech welcoming Lord and Lady Hope, and presented Lord Hope with two books about the history of the community: Two Worlds by the late Professor David Daiches, and Scotland's Jews co-authored by Dr Kenneth Collins, Ephraim Borowski and Leah Granat, and published by SCoJeC.
Lord Hope thanked the community for their welcome, saying that he had specially requested this visit as part of his programme during the General Assembly, due to his personal interest following a recent visit to Israel, and also because his father had played a role as part of the British forces in Palestine in rescuing Jews following the Holocaust. He said that he had never visited a synagogue before, and that the visit had given him a better understanding of both Judaism and the Jewish community.